Grading Written Assignments

When grading essays, particularly with a large class of students, it is helpful to devise a strategy that allows you to be efficient as well as spend enough time to grade each essay fairly.

Getting Started

Criteria for Assessment

  • Design a rubric that distinguishes the criteria for grading the essay
  • You can provide this to students when you give them the assignment, but do not make the criteria so specific that they follow the rubric rather than writing an organic essay
  • Before you assign grades, skim over several essays to see whether the rubric might require any modification.

Grade anonymously

  • Be sure to avoid a ‘halo effect’ where a student’s prior performance or class participation affects how you grade an essay
  • Request students to put their identifying information (such as their name or ID number) on the back of their exams so that you do no accidentally identify the student while grading

Grade questions separately

  • Avoid the ‘halo effect’ of a student’s performance on one question influencing how you score the student’s answer to the next prompt
  • If students are asked to respond to several short answer to essay prompts, grade the responses to each prompt separately and thus keep one answer key in mind at a time

Explanations for Grades

  • Students like and deserve to know the reasons for receiving a particular grade
  • Provide comments on the student’s paper by indicating elements that were done well and others that may have resulted in a particular number of points lost
  • Provide an explanation for how you are weighting the assignment with respect to quality of writing and the assignment’s content

Additional Resources

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